In this constantly changing, highly competitive market the legal sector is vulnerable like all others to disruption from technologies such as big data, machine learning and new platforms offering legal services. With this in mind, staying up to date with these technologies and being innovative is key to success. That said, it is paramount that all of this should all be done whilst continuing to stay true to your core values.
Survival depends on flexibility. Being robust enough to adapt quickly to change has become a necessity rather than a luxury and is only achievable when everyone in the business is on board, engaged and part of a real team. This keeps people at the heart of the business and in more challenging times this can help bring people together to work to a common goal.
Whilst we are selling advice, solutions and assistance we remain a people business. I totally buy into the need to innovate and future-proof the business but having the whole firm on this journey and being as transparent as possible is important for growth.
With the constant changes to legislation across many of our areas of work we have to provide the same high level of service with reducing margins and do so by implementing more efficient working practices. This is something which can be in part addressed with a strong IT infrastructure, commercial and financial structures to suit the business but it really needs the lawyers to be adaptable and to work together with our support teams to be able to pull this off successfully.
I include in this the external teams that we have and the organisations which we have partnered with to ensure that we remain a success. Having the right financial partners in place and getting your finances right is not just about getting more cash in the door to meet running costs, but also maintaining a good dialogue with your lenders to be able to access funds to develop the business and remain competitive.
Good cash flow is vital, not only to attract clients but also the right staff who share the commonality of purpose to move the business forward. Without that, we cease to exist.
A good, long-term relationship with lenders therefore depends on regular discussions and working with them. Every business is unique. Communicating the nuances is key to ensuring lenders fully understand your strategy and allows them to offer suggestions or different mechanisms to remain flexible and buoyant.
The nature of our work means we’re not a cash-rich business: cases can take four to five years to conclude and we’re reliant on negotiating costs. Our financial model is also constantly subject to legal and government reform that can suddenly restrict the way we generate income but again having the right people and partners can make this process slightly more bearable.
There will always be the end of year push but again I think this is something which can be much less stressful with the right people on board. Everyone working to achieve the figures and provide the growth needed to expand.
Uncertainty is the enemy of productivity and a lesson I’ve learnt, particularly coming in as managing partner relatively unknown, is the importance of communicating your plans with staff and your external partners to make them part of the process and none more so in a challenging period.
Vidisha Joshi, Managing Partner Hodge Jones & Allen